Back in July of last year Steelseries announced two headsets specifically designed for Xbox 360 gaming: the Spectrum 5xb and 4xb, and over the last couple of weeks we’ve had our hands on the former of these to see how well it matches up not only to the pretty good pedigree that Steelseries have created for themselves but also against the competition.
The SteelSeries Spectrum 5xB Gaming Headset is their first (or more correctly, the better of their first two) headsets specifically designed for gaming on the Xbox 360 which means that not only do they come with the usual headset paraphernalia but also a neat little box that allows you to adjust the audio from your Xbox to ‘optimise your gaming experience’.
But before I address the more unique Xbox features it’s worth having a look at how the headset stands by itself as far too often we see headsets that have innovative features fail on the bits that you actually use them the most for. However if you were to have invested in the 5xB even in complete ignorance of the fact that it is specifically designed for the Xbox you wouldn’t be at all disappointed.
As soon as you get it out of the box it looks like it’s going to be good; the glossy black and green highlights make it look both smart and modern with the Steelseries motif on the side of the ear cups adding to that. It does feel worryingly light to start with which is often an indicator of poor build quality, but as of yet that has not been a problem and the lack of weight in fact makes them a lot more pleasant to wear for long periods of time.
The cloth ear-cups add to this comfort as they sit very lightly on the ear, although this does lead to a little more sound leakage that perhaps one would want; however the fact that they have included practical features such as a nylon chord wire (which are in my experience infinity more durable than their standard counterparts) and the ability to be dismantled (into three easy to tuck away sections) more tan make up for it.
The microphone is perhaps the part of the 5xB that makes it good value for money purely down to the fact that it is retractable meaning that when you’re out and about and just wish to use the headset as a pair of headphones they look no different to any other pair. Added onto that the fact that the microphone when extended is of good quality and easy to position it’s almost perfect, my only complaint being that it is uni-directional which I found picked up a lot more background noise than I’d have liked.
I’ll move on now and look at the most unique feature about the 5xB and that’s its Xbox 360 compatibility. Once you’ve got the wealth of cables you are provided with under control you are left with a small box which attaches nicely onto the back of your controller which allows you to do four things.
The first of these is very unexciting as it simply turns the mic on an off (although somewhat perversely the least exciting feature has the biggest button), but the next two are two ‘scroll wheels’ that sit either side of the box and allow you to control the in-game and voice volumes independently making it very easy to turn the game sounds down so you can hear people or, more likely, mute everyone instantly.
The final feature however is easily the best as it essentially does the job of the two I mentioned before for you by automatically balancing the in-game noise and voice volumes so that you can hear other people when you need to. It actually works surprisingly well and in fact you really don’t notice how good it is until you go back to playing without it as the seasmless nature of it means you can really get a lot more involved in the game.
However it is this box that is also the most disappointing part of the 5xB as unlike the actual headset, or in fact any other Steelseries product I’ve used, it’s not very well made as within about 10 minutes the top cover had snapped off and required some maintenance to get it to stay on again. This isn’t a major problem at all (and in fact being able to see the inside has a certain appeal) but it is a shame when so much effort has obviously been put in to make the rest of the headset so robust.
In conclusion the SteelSeries Spectrum 5xB is a great headset, one that would be very hard to beat if you are an Xbox gamer and even one that I would recommend to any PC gamer as well. In fact if it wasn’t for the £59 price tag I would recommend it to even non gamers it has really impressed me that much. Sure it has its flaws (namely the flimsy Xbox adapter and a lead that is not quite as long as one would have liked) but it is up to the high standard that we have come to expect from Steelseries and I’m sure it will not disappoint.